A Bold Strategy To Grow Young Africa

President and CEO of Mastercard Foundation, Reeta Roy (2nd left), with members of the Solar Taxi all female engineering team during their visit to Kumasi Hive, a multi-space innovation hub

EMMANUEL ANSAH-Amprofi did not plan to be a farmer. He was content practicing immigration law, until he stumbled on an insight that stunned him.

He learned that the onions sold in his local market were imported. It bothered him, “How can we have all this land, good weather, water and still import onions?” He wondered.

At home, he googled, “how difficult is it to farm?” The search query launched him into “agriprenuership”.

Today, Emmanuel is the CEO and Founder of Tro Tro Tractor. It is essentially an “Uber for tractors” that allows farmers to use their phones to rent sharable tractors. Tro Tro Tractor is putting people to work, helping farmers cut costs and enabling consumers to get more value for their money.

Emmanuel’s story has been told across the world. It is inspiring because it represents what is possible when young people are equipped to see the latent potential around them and turn it into opportunity—especially on a continent whose greatest asset is its young people.

Africa is home to the largest population of young people in the world; and it is only growing. Whether and how these young people plug into the economy will determine the future of the continent. Securing dignified work for young women and men is Africa’s defining challenge and opportunity. The burning question for policymakers is; how do we unlock the opportunity?

“There is no silver bullet; it will take bold action and multi-sectoral partnerships and investments. Under the banner of an ambitious new strategy, Mastercard Foundation, is forging those partnerships and underwriting those investments. In the challenge of youth unemployment, the foundation sees an opportunity to transform the continent and the world,” says Mastercard Foundation President and CEO, Reeta Roy.

Developed in consultation with young people, policymakers, educators and entrepreneurs, the Young Africa Works strategy aims to extend dignified work to 30 million young people in Africa, including 21 million young women over the next 10 years. Across the continent, a key sector of focus is agriculture, which by some estimates, has the potential to reduce poverty by nearly twice as much as even the most promising alternative sectors.

Young Ghana Working

In Ghana, Mastercard Foundation aims to see three million young women and men access work opportunities by supporting small enterprises through business development services, access to finance and access to markets to encourage their growth and expansion as well as enabling young people to acquire skills that are needed by employers in growing sectors of the economy. It is also strengthening the quality of education to prepare students for the future of work and scaling digital training and enhancing technology-focused work opportunities.

To effect Young Africa Works in Ghana, the foundation has established an in-country office in Accra. It will focus on a number of sectors, with special emphasis on opportunities that impact leveraging new technology to address a range of challenges.

As Nathalie Akon Gabala, Mastercard Foundation’s Regional Head for Western, Central and Northern Africa and Country Head in Ghana, says, “Technology is changing the nature of work in Africa, with the potential to create significant growth and work opportunities.”

The foundation has already started. Solar Taxi, one of the enterprises that the foundation supports, is an example of an innovative business that is solving multiple challenges and creating work in the process. The initiative provides a solar-powered transportation service to the city. In six months, Solar Taxi successfully completed more than 200 rides and deliveries across Accra. During its pilot phase, the program created 24 jobs – half of which absorbed previously unemployed individuals.

In Ghana, Mastercard Foundation is implementing its strategy through partnerships with the National Board for Small Scale Industries; CAMFED; Ghana Tech Lab and Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology and it expects more partnerships to follow. The foundation also intends to leverage an existing network of hubs across Ghana to conveniently deliver entrepreneurship and digital skills training and business development services to the youth.


Since 2009, Mastercard Foundation has invested more than US$200 million in programmes that have impacted the lives of more than nine million Ghanaians. The foundation’s partnerships with CAMFED, Ashesi University College and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) have enabled young women and men to access secondary and tertiary education and entrepreneurship opportunities.

Programmes under the Foundation’s Youth Forward initiative such as Youth Inclusive Entrepreneurial Development Initiative for Employment (YIEDIE) and MASO are improving the capacity of young people in Ghana to be connected to jobs, grow their businesses and access finance to expand opportunities available to them in the construction and agricultural sectors.

As one of the largest private foundations in the world,  Mastercard Foundation, through its Young Africa Works strategy and Canadian EleV programme, works with partners to ensure young people, especially young women, access quality education, financial services and dignified work. Established in 2006 through the generosity of Mastercard, the foundation is independent with its own Board of Directors and CEO.

Nathalie Gabala, Mastercard Foundation Regional Head for Western, Central and Northern Africa and Country Head in Ghana